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The Ohio Expedition of 1754- 43
THE OHIO EXPEDITION OF 1754.
BY ADAM STEPHEN.
[This account by General Adam Stephen of the Ohio expedition of
1754 has lately come to light among the papers of Dr. Benjamin Rush,
now in possession of the Library Company of Philadelphia, to the di-
rectors of which institution my thanks are due for permission to publish
it. The manuscript is endorsed, in the handwriting of Dr. Bush, " Col.
Stevens's life written by himself for B. Bush in 1775." Peculiarities of
spelling, etc., of the original are here retained. A sketch of General
Stephen may be found in the "Journal of Colonel Washington," edited
by J. M. Toner, Albany, 1893, p. 27.— Bunfokd Samuel.]
Col. Stephen Studied four years at the University in the
same Class with the Respected Doctor John Gregory ; & Af-
terwards at Edinburgh in the different physical Classes for
two years, Whilst Dr. Gregory went to Leyden Gregory,
Donald Munroe, & Stephen bore away the palm, in all the
Classes, of philosophy, Mathematic & physic.
Stephen went to London, and past examination to go
aboard the Navy, but discovering the Officers & Crew in
general to be a parcel of Bears ; he Absolutely refus'd to go
aboard, and Went Surgeon to An Hospital Ship going w' h
the Army ag' Port L'Orient on the Coast of France. There
He got a little habituated to danger, & next year by his
coolness & presence of Mind Sav'd the Ship from being
The Commander of the Vessel was confus'd, gave Order
upon Order so Quickly that none were Executed and the
Enemy w'Mn a hundred yards on the Lee Quarter ready to
Board — When Stephen waited on the Captain in a respectful
manner & requested the Command of the Guns in the Cabin,
four 9 pounders, w th the Cabin Boy & a young lad brought
up in the Coal Trade to Assist.
It was obtain'd ; The Guns were loaded with all imple-
44 The Ohio Expedition of 1754.
ments of destruction ; & the Enemy crowded on the fore-
castle & Boltsprit ready to Board ; were greatly hurt by the
fire of the first two guns brought to bear upon them. After
three Cheers They gave the Ship a yaw, brought the other
two guns to bear & compleated the destruction of the Enemy :
This made him Courted by the Merch" in London.
The India Company made great offers to Stephen to en-
gage him in their Service, but the Sea disagreed with him
so much that he could not be prevailed on to undertake so
long a Voyage.
After "Wandering for a Certain period ; Natural to the
Young & Curious — Stephen came into America & Settled in
Virginia, made himself known by making an incision into
the Liver of Mrs. Mercer of Stafford County, cleansing, &
healing the Ulcers there, Contrary to the Opinion of all the
faculty employ'd to cure the Lady — & by performing the Op-
eration for the Aneurism, on Abraham Hill & restoring
him the Use of his Arm & hand.
Col. Fairfax was a particular friend in those days to Mr.
Washington the present Commander of the American Forces ;
The Col. conceiv'd a favourable Opinion of Stephen from the
distinct Ace' he gave of the Port L'Orient Expedition ; &
in a Manner fore'd him to Enter the Service in the year 54.
One Col. Fry was appointed to Command the Expedition,
Washington was Appointed Lt. Col. a Certain Mr. Meuse
was made Major; and Stephen was appointed first Cap-
The various fortune so frequent on this Globe In the
Course of the Campaign, Constituted Mr. Washington
Commander in Chief, & Stephen Second in Command. In
which Situation they Continued to the end of the Campaign
of 58, when Col. Washington Resign'd.
In the meantime, as you are desirous to know more of
Stephen I will give you an Opportunity to discover his
Genius, by a little of his history during these Campaigns.
On the 11th of May 1754 he was detach'd by Col. Wash-
ington from the Little Meadows, an Encampment about 20
miles above Fort Cumberland, with Monsieur Pirony an
The Ohio Expedition of 1754- 45
Ensign, & 25 men ; to Apprehend Monsieur Jumonville, La
Force & other Frenchmen detach'd from Fort du Quesne to
Reconnoitre the Country.
Stephen Carried only four days provision with him; &
There fell such a heavy rain, that it rais'd all the Rivers in
the Mountains; he Sent out Hunters to kill provisions;
employ'd the Rest in making Rafts, & with labour & difficulty
cross'd all the Rivers.
He at last arriv'd with his detachm' on the Monngahela
near Redstone, & was inform'd by Some Indian Traders,
"Whom the French had permitted to Retire ; that Joumon-
ville & his party finding the "Weather unsuitable for Recon-
noitering had return'd down the River to Fort du Quesne
the day before. Stephen unwilling to Return to Washing-
ton without Something to Say, bethought himself of Sending
a Spy to Fort du Quesne for Intelligence — It was distant
about 37 miles.
He pitch'd upon a person that in five days brought him
the most Satisfactory & Accurate Ace' of every thing at Fort
The number of French at that post — The Number em-
ploy'd daily on the Works — The Number Sick in the Hos-
pital, & what Accidents had happen'd Since their arrival at
that place — The dimensions of the Fort — the breadth, &
depth of the ditch, the thickness of the Rampart ; & in
what places it was on only Stockaded, with the length of
Stephen was amaz'd at so great Accuracy, & it immedi-
ately enter'd into his head; that the fellow had got five
pounds of him, for the Scout, & that probably he had Re-
ceiv'd as much of the French for informing them of his
Strength & Situation — This occasion'd as Quick a Return to
Meet Washington as possible — On the 23 a Stephen with his
party Join'd Col. "Washington at the Great Crossing at
Tougoughgany ; & it turn'd out as he expected ; on the 25 th
advice was receiv'd that a party of the Enemy, was within 6
miles of our Camp Col. "Washington had advane'd w th the
first division of the troop & had only 150 men with him —
46 The Ohio Expedition of 1754-
He detach'd a certain Capt Hog w th 75 of the best men in
quest of the Enemy — This Detach' took too much to the
left, & miss'd the Enemy, and on the 27th at night, intelli-
gence was Receiv'd from Monocotootha & the Half King, by
Means of Silverheels, well known afterwards in the British
Armies, He was Achates to Quintin Kennedy ; particular
advice was rec'v'd of the Enemy, & where they were posted.
Forty men was all that Col. Washington could take with
him : & Seven of them return'd, pretending that they lost
the party in the Night. It rain'd, was very dark, & there
was no Road. Washington had Stephen with him, came to
an Indian Camp within two miles of the Enemy by day
light ; put the Wet Arms in order and Mareh'd on ; Wash-
ington Commanding the Right & Stephen the left. 1 It is
uncertain whether the English or French fir'd first — Stephen
w th the platoon he Commanded rush'd in among them, and
took Monsieur Druillon the Commanding Officer prisoner
with his own hand 2 — Jumonville who had Commanded was
1 In a letter appearing in the Pennsylvania Gazette of September 19, 1754,
and there attributed to Stephen, the following more positive assertion is
made as to this action : " A smart action ensu'd : their [the French] arms
and ammunition were dry being shelter'd by the bark huts they slept in,
we could not depend on ours, and therefore, keeping up [i.e., withholding]
our fire, advanc'd as near as we could with fixt bayonets, and received
their fire." The rest of the letter tallies with the present account.
4 " The Half-King boasted that he had killed Jumonville with his
tomahawk." — Parkman, "Montcalm and Wolfe," Chapter V. p. 151,
" We have certain account from the Westward of an engagement . . .
some of the particulars are as follows. . . . The French gave the first
fire. The English returned the fire and killed 7 or 8 of the French, on
which the rest took to their heels, but the Half-King and his Indians,
who lay in ambush to cut them off in their retreat, fell upon them and
killed five of them . . . one of those five which were killed by the
Indians was Monsieur Jumonville . . . whom the Half-King himself
dispatched with his tomahawk." — Pennsylvania Gazette, June 24, 1754.
Letter of June 13, from Annapolis.
" Half-King . . . was with the party that attacked de Jumonville and
was credited in certain quarters with having slain that officer with his
hatchet ; but this was without any foundation in fact." — " Journal of
Colonel Washington," edited by J. M. Toner, p. 37, editor's note.
The Ohio Expedition of 1754.. 47
kill'd the first fire. The number of the Enemy was forty,
& they were all kill'd or taken to One This happen'd
on the 28th of May, in the Morning.
After this Affair, having Sent the prisoners to "Winches-
ter, "Where the Governour & Several of the Council were
treating with Some Indians the troops advanc'd twelve
Miles, took post at Guest's plantation, the only Settl'n" at
that time over the Mountains.
Artificers were Sent to build boats on Monongahela &
men employ'd in Opening Roads to that River When Intel-
ligence Was brought us that 700 men had arriv'd at Fort
du Quesne from Canada, Under Command of Joumonville's
brother, who was kill'd in the late Skirmish ; and that in
two days 1200 French & Indians were to March to Atta'k
us. 1 Being only about 300 men it was resolv'd to Retreat
12 miles to the great Meadows & there erect a Stockade fort
& wait the Enemy. Having no horses our Men haul'd Nine
Swivel guns 12 miles over as rough Road as any in the
Mountains, Officers & men living at time on parch'd
On the 1st of July our Scouts inform'd us that the Enemy
had advanc'd as far as Redstone ; on the 3d one of the Out
Sentries, was Shot in the heel by the dawn of day : About
11 O'Clock the Enemy — Approach'd us in three Col-
Stephen was Major — The men fit for duty under Command
of Col. Washington amounted to 284.
They were drawn up in the open Ground to receive the
Enemy, but on observing their Superior Numbers ; orders
were given to march into the Skirts of the "Woods : Stephen
observing by this Manoeuvre, the Enemy might take pos-
session of the fort & Baggage &c. as no guard, but the Sick
had been left in it — Runs to the left of the Line & calls out
1 Washington states that he had not intended to make a stand at
Great Meadows, but was forced to do so by the inability of the troops to
drag the baggage and artillery farther.
Marshall says, " In this hazardous situation a council of war unani-
mously advised a retreat to the fort at Great Meadows."
48 The Ohio Expedition of 1754..
— Two platoons on the left, 1 Have a care. Halt To the Right
about (with an Intention to send to guard the Fort) When
happily for us the "Whole went to the Right about & took
possession of the Fort & lines — Had not this lucky Mistake
happen'd not a man of us could have liv'd above an hour.
There were 1200 of the Enemy, fine, men well Arm'd &
The fight Continued 'till Dark — the Stockade not being
finish'd, we had Eighty men kill'd & wounded in it — The
Enemy call'd Voules Vous parlez — It was at first imagin'd
they intended to Amuse us Untill they storm'd us, but on
their calling again, We put ourselves in the best order for a
defence, & Sent two Officers to receive their proposals, & a
Capitulation was agreed On —
Stephen would not Sign the Capitulation 2 because they
1 Three words are here somewhat conjectural, the manuscript being
difficult to decipher.
" Washington after a time drew his men back into the trenches,"
etc. — " Journal of Colonel Washington," edited by J. M. Toner. Ap-
pendix, p. 145.
' This curious assertion seems difficult to explain by forgetfulness, even
after twenty years' lapse between event and writing. Was Stephen
called upon by his position to sign ? It seems also to be contradicted in
another place by Stephen himself. W. C. Ford, in his edition of " Wash-
ington," Vol. I. p. 120, says, " The entire blame was laid on Van Braam
. . . one of his fellow-officers. Adam Stephen also intimates evil inten-
tions on [his] part ; but his description of the conditions under which the
articles were read, ' We were oblig'd to take the sense of them from his
mouth, it rain'd so hard, that he could not give us a written translation ;
we could scarcely keep the candle light to read them by' (and any offi-
cer there is ready to declare that there was no such word as 'assassina-
tion' mentioned), certainly affords some excuse for a misapprehension
on the part of the hearers."
The words quoted by Mr. Ford, with those in parenthesis, occur in a
letter in the Pennsylvania Gazette, August 22, 1754. The letter is there
unsigned, and is stated to be " an extract from an officer in the Virginia
regiment." It says, "I will give you an account of the engagement
wherein Jumonville was killed in my next." And accordingly on Sep-
tember 19, no other communication on the subject appearing in the
interval, there is a letter giving an account of the Jumonville skir-
mish, which letter is stated to be by Stephen. The inference, therefore,
is that the first letter was also by Stephen.
The Ohio Expedition of 1754.. 49
charged us w th Assassination in it — but Col. Washington &
Capt. MacKay, who commanded a detach'n* of Regulars,
Signed it, & I believe it was best as they might have Starv'd
us out ; & we had no hopes of Relief. The Adjutant, & Sar-
geant Major were wounded early in the Engagement, which
made the Duty of Major very hard on Stephen — He had the
Stockades Cut & Several Swivels fixt, during the Action to
fire from the fort, examining the mens Arms, & Supplying
them with Ammunitions, made his hands as black as a
Negroe's, & guarding his face against the Thrusts (?) made
his face as Black as his hands.
It is to be observed, that whilst the troops were Under
Arms Upon the Alarm of the Centinel being Shot, at the
dawn of the Morning — there fell so heavy a shower of
Rain, that it set every thing afloat in the Encampm* which
was in a natural meadow or dry marsh — This occasion'd
Stephen to put on Shoes without Stockings in which trim
he continued all the day of the Engag'n*.
The Weather was Showery, the ditches half full of Water,
& fort half Leg deep of Mud, so that Stephen's duty as Ma-
jor leading him every where: He was Wet; Muddy half
thigh up ; without Stockings, face & hands besmear'd with
I do not know if Mr. Ford quotes from the paper. Possibly he may-
have extrinsic evidence of Stephen's authorship of the letter.
An analysis of the text of the capitulation does not render it more
easy to be understood how such a blunder could have been undesignedly
made. The first article runs as follows : " Comme notre intention n'a
jamais 6tA de troubler la paix et la bonne harmonie qui regnoit entre les
deux Princes, mais seulement de venger l'assassinat qui a 6t6 fait sur un
de nos officiers, porteur d'un sommation," etc.
Two points at once occur on reading this. First. The word " assas-
sinat" is so much like its English equivalent that it would probably
suggest that rather than any other word to one unfamiliar with the lan-
guage. Second. The context of the word points out its force ; for one
does not go out with an army in time of peace only to avenge the bearer
of a summons, if that one is fairly and justly slain, nor can such a one
be justly slain. If such words were even approximately translated, how
could they have been heard without suspicion of their meaning by per-
sons who, as Washington's Journal shows, were prepared for some such
Vol. xviii. — 4
50 The Ohio Expedition of 175 4-.
powder, & in this pickle form'd the Men to march out of
the Fort early in the Morning of the 4th according to
Capitulation — The Enemy allow'd us to Carry off the Bag-
gage, & to march out with the honours of War — Whilst
Stephen was forming the men, His Servant cry'd out Major
a Frenchman has Carried off your Cloaths — Stephen look-
ing Round, observ'd the Corner of his port Mantua on a
Frenchman Shoulder, he running into the Crowd — Stephen
pursued & overtook him Seiz'd the portmantua, kicked the
fellows back side & Return'd. Upon Seeing this two french
Officers, observ'd to Stephen that [if] he Struck the Men &
behaved So, they could not be answerable for the Capitula-
tion Stephen damned the Capitulation, & Swore they had
Broke it already. The Officers Observing such pertness in
a dirty, half naked fellow, ask'd Stephen, if he was an
Officer — Upon Which Stephen, made his Servant Open his
portmantua, & put on a flaming suit of laced Regimentals
Which in those cheap days cost thirty pistols —
The French Officers gazed at the flaming Regimentals,
on Such a dirty fellow without Stockings, were extremely
Complaisant, told us, as we had given hostages, we ought
to get hostages of them ; that they were very desirous of
going to Virginia, as they understood there were a great
many Belles Madammoiselle there —
Col. Washington resign'd a few months after this affair ;
the Command of the Virg. troops devolv'd on Stephen, &
the Officers were employ'd in Recruiting (?) Untill March
1775  when Gen 1 Braddock Arriv'd.
To be Short, Braddock left the greatest part of his Army
at the Little Meadows under Command of Col. Dunbar, &
precipitatly hurri'd on with about Eleven hundred men
without provisions to supply him twelve days.